[OPINION] A life of surrender: Living with interstitial lung disease

'I am mentally and emotionally driven to keep going after small and big wins'

I am a person living with a disability. Four years ago, after acute respiratory failure landed me in intensive care, I became one of the rare cases of interstitial lung disease (ILD) in the country. Heavy doses of antibiotics fought this not-so-garden-variety pneumonia and the battle nearly killed me. In the ICU, intubation also damaged my vocal chords. I was a church choir member singing second soprano, but that’s gone now. I can speak, but very slowly and haltingly. 

After 20 days in hospital, I survived but had become a shadow of my former self. Now, I require supplemental oxygen to live. Oxygen tanks surround my bed, and a portable oxygen concentrator is required when I have to leave home. From a voluptuous, 70 kg obese woman, I now weigh 40 kg.

The confinement wiped out my bank account, and I have had to borrow more money to be able to fully pay all hospital bills. I lost my job. I was saddled with debt, with no immediate prospects for employment in my field of expertise. For more than 30 years, I succeeded in media sales, having had an impressive career as a sales manager for a large broadcast organization, a print media giant, and a cable network group. Outside of work, I had a full life – certified rescue diver, traveler, cook…that is all gone. (READ: PWDs and the Philippine media)

What is left is a life of surrender to the mercies of the Almighty. God has been a personal presence since I was 9 years old. That was when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. At a young age, I enthusiastically shared my newfound faith with family and friends. I was ridiculed by some and embraced in my belief by others. I went from success to failure, from excellent health to brokenness, from being a lost lamb to being a redeemed child of God.  

There are too many things to be grateful for in my nothingness now. The Lord’s promises, never truer than today, assures me that I will never be forsaken, that Abba Father knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me and to give me hope and a future. When my pain and coughing gets the better of me, it is easy to fall in despair. When bills come around and there is not even sufficient funds to cover payment, human nature sets in. Tears, worry, doubt – layer by layer they cover my eyes, just like clouds darkening the horizon on a stormy day. And yet, like the widow of the Old Testament, there was always enough oil. Everyday, manna from heaven came to supply daily bread. 

I remember those who suffer alongside me. I think about my mother who bombards heaven asking for a miracle of healing; I see the love of my sisters and brother in my daily difficulties. I am comforted by all that. The greatest blessing is seeing my daughter, though suffering from health issues herself, provide comic relief and elicit laughter during the times we spend together watching late night shows. (READ: Organizations, businesses collaborate for PWD inclusivity in the workplace)

The most amazing presence of all is my life partner of 12 years.  

Twenty years ago, my marriage was dissolved and I was single and alone for the first time in 16 years. It was then that I prayed to God that I would be able to share all my joys, successes, and great prospects for the future with someone who would only have unalloyed and unconditional love. Wagas at dalisay na pagmamahal.  

The answer did not come quickly but when it did, it was very clear. This lovely, wonderful man, as if from nowhere, chose to come into my life. He was not a stranger; on the contrary, he reappeared from our childhood days, a lifelong friend who knew me from when we were 9. Our coming together was so natural and easy. He stayed and stayed. And even now, in my illness, weakness, and frailty, he chooses every day to remain at my side.  

Now, I have nothing material to hold on to, but what I have is more vital to be able to live a joyful life. I am mentally and emotionally driven to keep going after small and big wins. There is a great need to keep searching for opportunities and to be able to market my skills. I continue to sharpen my selling and marketing prospects and exercise my creativity. (READ: Breaking waves: PWD rules skimboarding in Surf in the City)

There are days when my pain and coughing are too much to bear. Medical science states that there is no cure for ILD. My lungs are broken and I am physically disabled. But perhaps my tiny faith grows in direct proportion to regrowing my damaged air sacs. There is healing for a spirit in despair.  

As a PWD, I find that it would be easy for others to marginalize me. But even in my physical weakness, God’s promises in Scripture assure me that I need not fear or be discouraged. I am at the center of His good will. – Rappler.com

Debbie Lozare finished AB Journalism at the University of the Philippines-Diliman and has been in media sales since 1982. She is a deplorable worry-wart, a trait she tempers and soothes by cooking and singing, not necessarily at the same time.